Among many churches of Christendom, the claim is made that miraculous powers--such as healing the sick, opening the eyes of the blind, speaking in tongues, and other manifestations of the Holy Spirit--continue with God's people today. Each denomination insists that it receives this power directly from God and bases its claim for genuineness upon examples and cases of miracles which, it is contended, still occur and serve to confirm their assertion. But each religious group preaches a different doctrine which conflicts with that taught by another group that makes the same claim to work miracles. They are in strong opposition to and in irreconcilable disagreement with one another, and, yet, each claims to work miracles by God's power and that such manifestations are irrefutable proof of their true and divine character. Surely, it can be seen that God does not confirm with signs the preaching of one sect, while, at the same time, he is confirming with the same miracles the opposite and contradictory doctrines proclaimed by another sect. This would make God inconsistent and the author of confusion. We know that He is not.
In many places in the New Testament, we are reminded that the transmission of this miraculous power to others belonged solely to the apostles. When Paul came to Ephesus, he found there certain ones who had been baptized unto John's baptism. He taught them the truth about Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and they were immediately baptized into Christ. "... And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues [languages] and prophesied" (Acts 19:1-6). To the church in Rome, he wrote these words, "For I long to see you, that I [an apostle] may impart unto you some spiritual gift . . ." (Romans 1: 1 1). "Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands" (II Timothy 1:6).
In further discussing with them the help they would receive from the Holy Spirit after he had gone back to heaven, Jesus said, "However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth..." (John 16:13). From these verses, we are shown that the Holy Spirit would: (1) Teach the apostles all things. (2) Bring to their remembrance all that Jesus had spoken to them. (3) Guide them into all truth.
Paul later spoke to the Corinthian church upon this same topic, in these words: "But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory" (I Corinthians 2:7). In verse 10, he continues with this thought, "But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit." This is what Jesus promised to do. The gospel was revealed unto the apostles by the Holy Spirit and they preached all that Jesus commanded. They did it without error. To the Ephesian Christians, he said that the unsearchable riches of Christ "... as it has now been revealed by the Spirit... that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body..." (Ephesians 3:5,6).
The apostles, in turn, preached the word which they had received from the Lord. "For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it, not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God . . ." (I Thessalonians 2:13).
Note one other passage which states that the Holy Spirit revealed the truth unto the apostles, "To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven (I Peter 1:12).
It should be well understood that the New Testament was not written at this time, and so miracles attended them to establish and corroborate the gospel message they preached. The miracles served to support with evidence the divine authority by which they proclaimed Christ. The Hebrew writer said that the great salvation, ". . . which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness [corroborated their testimony] both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit. . ." (Hebrews 2:3, 4). These were supernatural proofs by which the truth was established--shown to be genuine and authentic. The inspired truth was written down, committed to record, by those providentially prepared men whom the Lord selected. Now you and I have access to the truth that was revealed and confirmed (John 20:30,31; II Timothy 3:16,17). Once the truth had been revealed and established by miraculous power, there is no further need for the exercise or use of that power. Jesus said all of the truth would be revealed to the apostles by the Holy Spirit.. Further revelation of truth is impossible. The truth which the apostles preached was completely verified, and no man can further prove it. It can be preached, but it was proved almost two thousand years ago.
Listen to Paul as he discusses this subject with the Corinthians: "Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect [complete) has come, then that which is in part will be done away" (I Corinthians 13:8-10).
God's will was revealed by the Holy Spirit only a part at a time, "bit by bit." A full and complete revelation was not made known to the apostles at once. Miraculous powers such as prophecies, foreign languages, supernatural knowledge, were some of the means by which the gospel was revealed and confirmed. But when the gospel system was completely revealed, miracles had served their purpose and came to an end.
But it is objected that the "perfect" to which Paul refers does not mean the will of God, but the coming of Jesus Christ, who is the "Perfect One." But this is not the case. When Paul said, "When the perfect is come," he used the neuter gender. Jesus Christ is not neuter gender. He is masculine. In speaking of the will of God in Hebrews 10:9-10, the inspired writer employs the neuter gender. "He taketh away the first that he may establish the second. By that will we have been sanctified..." The word for perfect means "brought to completion; fully accomplished, fully developed; complete, entire, as opposed to what is partial and limited" (I Corinthians 13:10, Analytical Greek Lexicon). So, when God's revelation to man was completed, "fully developed, entire," there was no further need for miracles. They had served their purpose and come to an end--were "done away." We now have the perfect law of liberty (James 1:25).
". . . 'When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.'" These miraculous gifts, bestowed for the purpose of revealing and confirming the will of God, were distributed to apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. The reason for their bestowal was "the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come in the unity of the faith" (Ephesians 4:8-13). "The faith" is the entire gospel system.
Jude speaks of it as "the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). These miraculous gifts were to last until "the faith" was completed, until it became one unit. Once it was made whole, finished, fully developed, the miracles which had been responsible for its revelation and confirmation passed away. That revelation was completed in A.D. 96, when the apostle John finished his last letter. Since that day, there has been no need for miracles. We have the word of God, all of the truth into which the apostles were guided by the Holy Spirit and it is to govern us in all of our beliefs and practices.
One must not change, alter or corrupt the gospel as it was preached by the apostles (Galatians 1:6-9). If anyone goes on and does not abide in the teaching which is from Christ, he does not have God (II John 9). We are warned that if we speak, we must speak as the words of God (I Peter 4:11). Jesus Christ has given us everything that pertains to life and godliness (II Peter 1:3). The Scriptures are able to furnish us unto every good work (II Timothy 3:16, 17). It is not only dangerous but damning to add to or subtract from the word of God (Revelation 22:18, 19). There have been no new revelations through these past two thousand years since the close of the New Testament. There is no such thing as an additional revelation, or a progressional revelation. The Holy Spirit guided the apostles into all truth, and we have that truth revealed and confirmed today in the New Testament, the perfect will of God (Romans 12:1,2).
The subject of speaking in miraculous tongues has become a subject of keen interest among religious people of the world. This claim has been made by various Pentecostal groups for over one hundred years, but in the past ten years, many groups are claiming the modern practice of the New Testament feat and are claiming to possess such power by means of the Holy Spirit.
An investigation of these claims is the purpose of this tract. We need to prove every spirit or doctrine (I John 4:1), and are told to prove all things in order to hold fast to the good (I Thessalonians 5:21). Let us therefore try this doctrine held by so many lately and see if it can be approved by the Word of God.
Let us say in the beginning that no claim of miraculous power to speak in tongues, heal the sick, or perform any other supernatural act should be accepted at face value. Just hearsay or some isolated case where I heard cannot be accepted as a factual happening. Human claims are not absolute facts in religion.
There must be an absolute standard by which all men evaluate and consider these claims. That standard is the New Testament. This great Book of God must sit in judgment upon human actions--not the other way, where human actions sit in judgment of the Bible.
Not that man is not honest and sincere when he makes a claim like this, but he could be honestly mistaken. Many millions imagine in their heart that they have cancer, or some other disease they have read about and may become sick over worry about that very disease. The feelings of one about these diseases can either be verified or denied only after a careful examination by a qualified doctor. We claim that the Bible is the place to check these claims to verify or deny this mania. Feelings alone will not suffice. An examination is necessary.
There is no evidence that the gift of miraculous tongues was ever associated with the worship of God in the Old Testament period. There are several references to this great miracle in the New Testament. They are:
The apostles then spoke in other languages in order to teach the truth and it was to give understanding. It was not ecstatic gibberish (which came from emotions) that no one could understand. It was not an unknown tongue. The word unknown in the King James translation appears in italics, which means that this word is not found in the original Greek, but the translators added this word. Paul later deals with people speaking in a tongue or language where no one understood and he commanded that they were to keep silent, unless there were an interpreter who could give the meaning (I Corinthians 14:27). Every tongue than had to (1) be from God for the purpose of teaching the truth and (2) be in some language that people could understand. As a result the Jews believed and were baptized and were added to the church (Acts 2:47).
The purpose of this gift of tongues was to convince Jewish Christians that ". . . God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life" (Acts 11:18). God wanted all men to be saved. The gospel was to be for every creature (Mark 16:15). It was ". . . for the Jew first and also for the Greek" (Romans 1:16). Therefore, God brought the Gentiles into His great family by the same sort of miracle he had used for the Jews on the day of Pentecost, about ten years before.
As a result of Peter's preaching and this great miracle to convince the Jews that God would accept Gentiles, Cornelius and his household were baptized into Christ (Acts 10:47, 48). They became Christians, and now all nations (Jews and Gentiles) were brought to a knowledge of truth.
It should be noticed that this occasion differs from the first two in that the Holy Spirit's power was given through the laying on of the apostle's hands.
On the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), the Jews (apostles) received the gift of tongues directly from heaven. At the household of Cornelius (Acts 10), the tongues were given directly from heaven. But now these men at Ephesus received this gift indirectly. The first two times tongues were given without human hands. The third time the gift was bestowed by the laying on of hands. As a result of Paul's teaching, and this miracle, they were baptized with the baptism which the Jews and Gentiles had experienced. It was in the name of Christ (Acts 19:5).
These miraculous works of the Spirit (nine gifts of I Corinthians 12:8-10) were never intended to be permanent in the church. They were to be given in part. "But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away" (I Corinthians 13: 10). This new and perfect thing would be a much more excellent way (I Corinthians 13:13). All of the gifts mentioned in the Corinthian church were to pass away, or cease. He said in I Corinthian 13:8 that prophesies would fail, tongues would cease, and divine knowledge would be done away. Now, when would these gifts cease? When that perfect thing (the complete will of God) should come (I Corinthians 13: 10).
Their claims must be false. There are at least four reasons we come to this conclusion:
Water baptism was used in every case of conversion in the book of Acts; whereas the Holy Spirit baptism was used only twice once on the Jews at Pentecost and then on the Gentiles when Cornelius was converted. Thus all flesh (Jews and Gentiles) had been given the gospel by a special miracle from God. Since all people had been given a chance, the need for the baptismal measure of the Holy Spirit ceased, and the baptism of water for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16; I Peter 3:21) continued.
Since the death of the apostle John at the close of the first century there has been no possibility of men receiving miraculous spiritual gifts through these means. When the last man on whom the apostles had laid their hands died, miraculous gifts in special measure by the hands of men (like healing incurable disease, cleansing lepers, restoring sight to the blind, drinking poison, raising the dead or speaking in a tongue or language they had never heard or known so that people could understand) cease to exist.
Once the New Testament was completed and circulated, the need for these special gifts, such as tongues, ceased. God does for us through his inspired word what he once did through miracles before the truth was written down for us to know. Now we have in the Bible the "perfect law of liberty" (James 1:25) which will give us "all that pertains to life and godliness" (II Timothy 3:16, 17).